Elderly people caught up in a multi-million pound investment scandal are now being targeted by unscrupulous solicitors promising to recover their money.
Thousands of customers were convinced to sign over their homes and savings to the Philips Trust Corporation (PTC).
Many had been referred by their local building society to salesmen, who claimed that by taking out complicated and costly financial products called trusts they would shield their wealth from care home fees and inheritance tax. But the disgraced firm has now gone bust.
Duped: Thousands of customers were convinced to sign over their homes and savings to the Philips Trust Corporation (pictured posed by models)
And as Money Mail revealed last month, it has also admitted mistreating customers’ money and making inappropriate investment decisions without their knowledge.
The firm manages some 2,345 trusts and is the legal owner of 447 properties, worth £94 million. It also has control of £44.4 million of cash and investments.
Since the scandal began, close to 500 victims have joined a Facebook group for support.
Many are making inquiries on behalf of elderly relatives, some of whom have dementia.
But suspicious individuals recently infiltrated the group claiming they had used an overseas firm to get their money back.
In messages sent to members they said they had recovered 60 per cent of their money using no-win, no-fee solicitors Financial Intelligence and Fraud Investigation Bureau (FIFIB).
On its ‘file case’ page it requests victims enter their name, address, telephone number, type of scam and a summary of what happened.
The website was set up in June last year and is almost identical to that of Californian law firm Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams LLP (BKLW).
But BKLW laywer John L. Littrell told Money Mail he had never heard of FIFIB and confirmed it had stolen content from his firm’s website.
The company is also not listed on the New York State’s Corporation and Business Entity Database and no one answers the phone.
When Money Mail contacted the firm via its online form it responded swiftly, asking for further information including a mobile number so it could send a WhatsApp message.
It also claimed to have received a dozen reports from victims of Philips Trust who are citizens of the U.S. and was working with Interpol to trace funds moved to the Cayman Islands.
Interpol said it was not aware of the firm, and Kroll Advisory Ltd, the administrators of PTC, said there were unlikely to be affected customers in America.
A further email was sent to us, then a link to book a 90-minute consultation. Money Mail also messaged ‘Roger Stivers’, who had contacted members of the PTC action group.
Philips Trust Corporation manages some 2,345 trusts and is the legal owner of 447 properties, worth £94 m. It also has control of £44.4m of cash and investments
Stivers, who appears to be based in America and has a gargoyle as his profile picture, said he received 60 per cent of his money back through a ‘soliciting firm’ that helped his colleague.
A few days later, he sent a message to say he had just returned from a family weekend trip to his ‘country home’ in Glencoe, Scotland, where he had taken his son Jay hunting. He sent a photograph of a dead deer he claimed to have killed and asked how the consultation went.
When Money Mail pointed out the hunting season at Glencoe didn’t start until August, he said you could hunt privately if you know the area.
And when we said we had found the deer photo in news articles from 2019, he responded: ‘I was just trying to impress you… you’re pretty so I thought, why not try my luck?’
One Facebook group member, Karen Cawood, said she was contacted two weeks ago by two people claiming they had managed to get 60 per cent of their investments back. In identical messages they said they had filed reports with the solicitors and expected to receive all their money back over time.
Karen, 51, a solicitor who lives in Rotherham, joined the Facebook action group after discovering her parents, both in their 80s, had transferred their life savings and home into a trust managed by the PTC.
They had been referred to a company called Family Trust Corporation by Leeds Building Society. The couple then paid a further £4,000 to transfer the trust to PTC in 2018 when it took over the business.
Karen says: ‘It’s terrible there are people online trying to scam the elderly who are already worried about losing their money.’
Jade Gani, from Solicitors For The Elderly, says: ‘It is appalling to think that someone could take further advantage of decent, grieving families when they are already experiencing so much pain and uncertainty.’
Money Mail reported the website to U.S. authorities the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Centre. And after alerting the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, it issued a warning to customers.
The administrators, Kroll, now need to try and piece together what investments belong to each Trust and where they are held.
It is unclear at this stage whether all the assets can be recovered.
Those affected should call PTC’s administrators, Kroll, on 0808 273 9201 or email PTC@kroll.com.